Calling the Shots: Nursing News and Notes

10 Patient Teaching Strategies for Nurses

10 Patient Teaching Strategies for Nurses

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Obstacles to Teaching Patients

Until recently, the art of teaching patients had not been emphasized in nursing education programs.  Consequently, many nurses have had to acquire the skills and knowledge required for effective patient teaching on their own.  While some seasoned nurses may spend less time teaching patients because they think the patient “won’t listen,” younger nurses may lack enough experience and confidence to believe that their teaching will truly make a difference. Also, busy nurses who walk (or run) countless miles in any given shift, skip regular meals, and worry about whether they’ve “missed anything” may think that there’s simply not enough time to teach. However, nurses have a responsibility to not just provide care, but also to teach and motivate patients to manage their disease as independently as possible.

Effective Patient Teaching

Below are 10 strategies to help nurses incorporate teaching into their daily practice.

  1. Start right away. Teaching should really begin at the time of admission. During assessment, planning and diagnosing, nurses should identify the needs and problems of the patient and his or her family, as well as their education level.
  1. Document the teaching process. It is important to document your teaching from admission through discharge, as it can impact evaluation and reimbursement, as well as help newer nurses learn effective strategies. Good documentation can help maintain care continuity when the patient’s care is transitioned from one nurse to the next.
  1. Set goals together. From the beginning, the nurse and patient should decide together on goals and objectives, ensuring that each person understands the goals and why achieving the goals is important. Be sure to continually evaluate and reformulate goals and objectives as patient care progresses.
  1. Emphasize necessary strategies. In the inpatient setting, many patients fear losing their independence.  Patients will be motivated to learn what is necessary for them to care for themselves. Nurses should therefore emphasize these strategies.
  1. Timing is everything. Choose a mutually agreed upon time to teach. Look for a time that is good for both you and the patient. For example, patients that have just heard their diagnosis may need time to process that information before they are open to learning. Also, look for a time when you will not be interrupted and the patient will not be distracted by visitors, meal time, etc.
  1. Know what they already know. Nurses do not want to spend time going over something that the patient already knows. That time is better spent educating or coaching the patient in other ways. If the patient already knows why they need to take a medication, but they don’t always do it, perhaps the teaching time is better spent on motivating the patient to care for themselves.
  1. Consider education level and literacy.  Not all patients can understand complex medical terms and some may not be able to read. Other patients may be very well-educated and be familiar with medical terminology. Others may have limited English proficiency, so a medical interpreter will be needed. Tailor your teaching to each patient’s level of understanding to be the most effective.
  1. Seeing and hearing is believing.  Customize your teaching to the patient’s physical abilities. If a patient can’t hear well, they may not digest verbal instructions. Those that are vision-impaired won’t be able to read patient handouts.
  1. Break it up.  Look for those ideal teaching moments where you can impart small bits of education and engage the patient by evaluating his or her understanding. Doing this in small increments helps you and the patient. It’s much easier to fit in a small teaching moment while you’re in the patient’s room than it is to spend a big chunk of time on discharge day. And, the patient doesn’t have to digest all of the information at once.
  1. Consider costs and income. Keep your recommendations practical, especially for patients on a fixed income.

Are you a “patient” teacher? Do you teach your patients, and do you practice patience when doing so? All patients are different and your strategies need to be flexible, adaptable and considerate. Which teaching strategies do you employ during your nursing practice? Which methods are the most successful?  

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